Being a child can be remarkably stressful. As we grow older, it can be easy to forget our formative years in primary and secondary school, with anxiety over studies, exams and generally trying to find our footing in the world looming over our everyday lives.
Exams, in particular, can lead to some of the most stressful moments of any child’s life. It seems almost archaic that an entire years’ worth a study could be defined by a few hours in the school hall, lording over an SAT paper that reads like gibberish while your mind furiously tries to find an answer within a 2-hour window.
Over time, grading systems in British schools have become more and more demanding. Last year, it was announced that a new grading system will replace the usual A to F grades to reflect the increasingly demanding exams and expectations of children up and down the UK – but this is likely to inevitably pile more stress onto primary and secondary school children alike.
The question remains – how can we help unburden children from this stress, whilst simultaneously encouraging them to do their best? Read below for our tips and tricks for helping children through some of the most difficult years of their lives:
Sport and Exercise
It’s no secret that exercise is key to a healthy body. But did you know that it has huge benefits for our minds too? When we take part in physical activity, it helps to clear the mind – whether that’s running, swimming or any kind of sport.
This is because exercise releases endorphins, which are also known as the “good times hormone”. Simply put, they make you happy and they’re great for any person’s wellbeing! Exercise is also proven to help us sleep which can increase our capacity for storing memory – which is a must during exam season.
A Balanced, Healthy Diet
Of course it goes without saying that good nutrition works wonders for the body and mind. When we feel stressed, we have a tendency to reach for comfort foods; for children, this might include treats such as sweets, chocolate and crisps. The sugar in these items gives our bodies a very short-lived energy boost with an almost guaranteed sugar crash the other side of our snacking binge.
During high intensity months of exams, encourage children to reach for fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C. It’ll give them that all important brain power that they need for their studies.
Get a Cuddly Friend
Is there anything that kids love more than animals? Studies have shown that simply petting a dog or a cat can release hormones in the body of children and adults which helps to relieve stress; which makes them the perfect option to help a child through some tough years!
If you aren’t able to commit to a cat or a dog, perhaps a smaller pet such as a rabbit or a guinea pig might be what your child needs? Alternatively, if you haven’t got room in your household for a furry friend of any size, perhaps there’s a neighbour, friend or family member with a pet that your child might be able to be around occasionally?
Similarly to adults, a child can feel instantly more relaxed when listening to music. With plenty of apps such as Spotify available, and a world of music at their fingertips, there’s bound to be a certain genre of music that really helps to relive feelings of tension for children; whether they listen to the radio whilst studying, or tune into classical before they go to bed at night to encourage a good night’s sleep.
… and we’re not talking on the phone! Increasingly, today’s children are joining social media in waves, and spending a large amount of their free time on phones using apps such as Snapchat to do most of their socialising with their peers. Even primary school children!
But this within itself brings stresses and anxieties as children opt to portray themselves in a certain way online. When it comes to socialising, nothing compares to hanging out with your friends in person. Encourage children to go out at lunchtime while they’re at school, or to have playdates at their friends houses after school.
It’s amazing what a bit of laughter can do in terms of relieving stress!
Sounds obvious, right? But when we’re stressed, we have a tendency to let sleep evade us – a child might, for example, opt to stay up late revising for an exam instead of getting their recommended 8 hours of kip. But this can have far more negative effects than it has benefits!
You could try encouraging your child to take a nap when they get home from school, or just making sure that they stick to their bedtime. Perhaps you could set up a rule that gadgets such as phones, tablets and laptops be left downstairs when they go up to bed, to discourage them from getting distracted when they’re supposed to be winding down for the night.